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Picture Perfect - Grey Corries Traverse

Picture Perfect - Grey Corries Traverse

Postby houdi » Thu May 30, 2013 8:05 pm

Route description: The Grey Corries

Munros included on this walk: Sgùrr Chòinnich Mòr, Stob Bàn (Grey Corries), Stob Choire Claurigh, Stob Coire an Laoigh

Date walked: 24/05/2013

Time taken: 10 hours

Distance: 21 km

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I came to Scotland for my annual week of hill-trekking with two ‘must do’ routes in mind: The full 4 Munro Grey Corries Traverse, and Ben Alder & the Culra. After the rank bad weather (snow, hail, wind) of Thursday I was starting to think my luck was out, but a favourable forecast for Friday (24th May) saw me heading to Spean Bridge with my fingers crossed that the weather would live up to expectations. It did and then some.
I had reservations about the land rover track from Coirre Choille Farm and so I parked at the woodland car-park at Spean Bridge and cycled in, leaving my bike in the forest where the road comes out just below the old tramline and before the car-park. As it turned out the track wasn’t too bad and I reckon it’s passable for most cars so long as you drive slowly and dodge the worst of the potholes.
All the hills were covered with a light dusting of snow from the previous day. It looked as if someone had taken a gigantic flour-shaker to them. By early afternoon all that new snow would melt away, leaving only the original winter snow. And there was still a fair bit of that about on the higher peaks. At this stage, however, I was more concerned with the clag over this end of the ridge. The walk into the Lairig Leacach bothy took near enough two hours and, by the time I reached there, the clag had gone and blue skies were beckoning.
I saw a picture once of a 4x4 parked outside the bothy. Don’t know if that option was available to everyone with a suitable vehicle, but it isn’t any longer. A small bridge over one of the streams on the route has collapsed and the road is now closed to all vehicles, except mountain bikes, obviously.
Hopefully, I was doing all four Munros today, starting with Stob Bahn. I discounted the normal ridge ascent in favour of the walk up the Alt a Chuil Choirean as I had a mind to tackle the ‘Giant’s Staircase’ which Ralph Storer rates as a worthwhile scramble. Unfortunately the path up beside this stream was extremely wet and boggy, and didn’t improve at all with height. The flat and spacious Coire Claurigh is a welcome relief, although I found the initial ascent quite enjoyable in spite of all the mud.
The staircase wasn’t one of my better ideas. Even if the rock had been bone dry it would have been quite a tough challenge. But the rock wasn’t dry. It was soaking wet and I should have avoided it like the plague. I managed to scramble up the first tier, avoided the second tier completely by taking to the grass on the left, and had a go at the extreme right-hand slabs on the final third tier. I ended up regretting this last choice. The sloping slabs were running with water and I had several hairy moments before eventually making it to the top. My advice is go and have a look at them and then take the sensible bypass path to the top.
Stob Bhan was an easy bag. Twenty minutes up and ten back down. I did cheat slightly by running back down through the scree, rocks and slush. I was anxious to get up on that main ridge.
The pull from the bealach to Stob Coire Claurigh was tougher then it looked, but it would be the only major slog of the day. I arrived on my second Munro summit at two o’clock. I’d started the walk, after leaving my bike, at ten o’clock. It was a two hour walk into the bothy and it had taken me a further two hours from the bothy to bag Stob Bahn and Stob Coire Claurigh. The complete traverse of the ridge to Stob Coire Easain would take me exactly two hours, arriving on that summit at four o’clock, giving me plenty of time to add Sgurr Choinnich Mor to my Munro list before retreating down the back basin. This brief recap could never do justice to the most amazing day I’ve ever spent on the Scottish hills. On the summit of Stob Coire Claurigh I spoke to two couples. They rated it as a ‘day in a million’ and they were right. You could take to the hills a million times and never experience conditions like these. They were perfect. Bright blue skies with fluffy clouds to add ambience to the hundreds of photos I snapped off on the ridge; pleasantly warm with not a breath of wind; unbelievable clarity – the visibility was astounding with just about every mainland peak visible, including (I was informed by someone more au fait with Scottish topography than me) a snow-capped Ben Wyvis, 60 miles away; and snow on just about every summit just to add that extra wow factor. It’s pointless trying to put it into words and I’ll simply let the pictures do the talking, bearing in mind that I’m not the greatest photographer and nor do I have a mega-expensive camera. I reckon you could have taken sublime photos with just about any camera given the subject matter and conditions.
A word about the Back Basin. It’s all nice and scenic and everything with lots of impressive waterfalls, but there are a few hills to trek over and the ridge of Beinn a Socaich is possibly a quicker and easier option even allowing for the re-ascent of Stob Coire Easain. I avoided the walk along the tramway back through the forest, taking the road option instead which landed me on the edge of the forest back at my bike, ten hours after I’d first left it. By the time I arrived back at my car, got myself changed, and stowed the bike and everything, it was nine-thirty. I’d be struggling to get anywhere to eat at this time. Luckily, Sammy’s fish & chip shop in Caol opens until eleven. Best haggis supper I’ve tasted.
During the subsequent drive over to Dalwhinnie my mind was still full of the magical day I’d just experienced. There was a full moon out, reflected in the still waters of Loch Laggan, and there wasn’t a solitary cloud in the sky. The Culra beckoned and it was shaping up to be another special day in the hills.

Lairig Leacach Bothy & Stob Bhan

Stob Bahn & the Giant’s Staircase

2nd tier, Giant’s Staircase

Sgurr Innse & the Easains

Snow-capped peaks of the Mamores & Glencoe

Bidean nam Bian & (right) Binnein Mor

Looking across Sgurr Innse to Ben Alder & Culra

Stob Choire Claurigh

Lochan in the sunshine

Same lochan, different view

On the main ridge

The Scottish Alps!

A closer look

It’s that view again!

Looking back to Stob Choire Claurigh

The ridge walk ahead

More alpine views

Zoomed Aonachs & Ben Nevis

The Ben – Scotland’s finest

Mamores again

The Grey Corries perspective

Sgurr Choinnich Mor

Binnien Mor & Mamores close-up

Looking back to the ridge from Sgurr Choinnich Mor

The Back Basin
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Re: Picture Perfect - Grey Corries Traverse

Postby soapy27 » Thu May 30, 2013 8:33 pm

Excellent report and photos there well done :clap:
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Re: Picture Perfect - Grey Corries Traverse

Postby Fudgie » Fri May 31, 2013 10:05 am

Great pictures there and it's definitely a route I want to do this summer 8)
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Re: Picture Perfect - Grey Corries Traverse

Postby kevsbald » Fri May 31, 2013 2:02 pm

Great stuff - reminds me of the route we took but added in the 2 Corbetts.

The Grey Corries route really is a classic in the right conditions.

Enjoyed your report.
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Re: Picture Perfect - Grey Corries Traverse

Postby Graeme D » Fri May 31, 2013 7:17 pm

Looks fantastic - one of the classic rounds I still have to do! I've kept putting it off but I don't know how much longer I can hold out! :lol:
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Re: Picture Perfect - Grey Corries Traverse

Postby Meatball » Fri May 31, 2013 8:21 pm

Cracking pictures!
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Re: Picture Perfect - Grey Corries Traverse

Postby houdi » Fri May 31, 2013 9:56 pm

Thanks for the feedback and comments folks. Much appreciated. It's definitely one of the best routes I've done although I was lucky to get such amazing conditions. Incidentally, kevsbald, I read your report when I first thought about doing this route. It was that pic of you crossing the dam that made me decide to descend the Back Basin instead of Beinn na Socaich. :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: Picture Perfect - Grey Corries Traverse

Postby TerribleToll » Mon Jul 15, 2013 6:34 pm

Shame you didn't enjoy the staircase. We had a lovely dry day and it was blissful climbing on rock at pretty much any grade you choose.

We took the first step up the central cracks. The second up the more broken section and spine in the middle and then the last step right up the vertical right-hand corner. Great big holds and steps - rock was quite grippy too. In places there are some browning areas where it would probably be very slimey if wet.
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